DON'T LOSE VISITORS BECAUSE OF POOR SITE DESIGN
This article is not about the practical designing of your site, it will, however, help you
avoid many of the common mistakes that novice (and expert) designers make. Whether you are
going to design the site yourself, or contract out to a design consultant, there are several
key elements to good site design that you (or your designer) need to work to.
The most important part of your site is the home page - that is what your potential
customers will see when they first visit the site. If that is not right, it doesn't matter
what the remainder of the site is like - no-one will ever get to see it!
Think of your front page as the cover of a book, and the Web as a giant book store. Most of
the people in the store are there to browse around for a while, either not sure of what they
want or just passing the time away. They will not pick up the first book they see and start
reading it, but they will glance at the book covers until one catches their eye. They will
then pick it up and look at the back cover for further information. If that still retains
their interest, they may then actually open the book. By this time they have probably
glanced at the covers of two or three dozen books and read the back covers of another dozen.
They will then read a few paragraphs here and there and then they will probably put the book
back on the shelf and continue browsing. Eventually they may buy and read one of the many
books they have glanced at.
This is like many of the browsers on the Web. They will surf through many sites before
stopping long enough to navigate through one particular site. Even then they will probably
leave before buying anything. It would be an achievement for you if they go as far as adding
your site to their favourites list!
"But," I hear you all saying, "when visitors come to my site, it is because they are
interested in the product/service/information that I offer so they will stay."
Really? And do you believe in the Tooth Fairy as well?
Lets go back to that Book Store. Say you were to visit that store with the specific
intention of buying a book on Web Site Marketing, and you had an idea of the book you wanted
because a friend had recommended it. You would go to the computer section, find the book
you were looking for and probably pick it up and glance through it. I doubt if you would buy
it purely on your friends recommendation.
Now even if you did like the look of the book and felt that it was just what you wanted,
wouldn't you at least glance at the other books in the section? Isn't there a chance that
you would pick one or two of them up and browse through them? After all, you do want to
ensure that you buy the best and most suitable book don't you? So even if you went to the
Book Store with the express intention of buying one particular book, there is a possibility
that you could change your mind because you have seen something better.
If you found that the recommended book was poorly designed and you didn't like the way it
was written, would you still buy it? I don't think so!
So you see, even if visitors have gone to your site because they were interested in what you
have to offer, it is by no means certain that they will stay there, let alone buy anything!
OK, so now, I hope, you appreciate the need for good site design.
The following pointers will help you to design a site that your customers will find
attractive and will stay at for at least a few minutes! I would recommend that you list
these points and ensure that they are followed - especially if you are paying someone else
to design the site for you - make sure you get the site that will work for you - not one
that shows what clever designers they are!
Downloads Quickly - most accepted research has shown that a visitor will only wait six to
eight seconds for a site to download - after that he will skip on somewhere else - so don't
have lots of graphics on your home page!
Easy to Read - don't have a heavily patterned background or lots of colours - it might look
pretty but people wont strain their eyes trying to read a light blue text on a purple
background. (If you think Im exaggerating, believe me, I'm not - I have seen that on a site
of a company trying to sell a web design service - I could hardly read it so naturally I
left and have never been back!). Black or dark blue on white is usually best for the main
Make it Clear - show your visitors exactly what they have to do to navigate your site/obtain
information/buy goods etc. Don't leave them thinking what to do next.
Build Confidence - they probably don't know you, so build confidence in your site. Do this
by having an "About Us" page, contact information, site security information (if you are
taking credit card details), testimonials, a FAQ page if appropriate (Frequently Asked
Keep Banners to a Minimum - particularly on your home page - people either don't like them,
ignore them, or worse still, click on them and leave your site!
Ensure Visitors can Navigate Easily - at a minimum, have a "top of page" link at the bottom
of every page that is longer than the visitor can see at normal browser settings, and have a
"home page" link on every page. Don't send visitors down a cul-de-sac with no obvious way
out. Yes, I know they can use the back button on their browsers, but it is surprising how
many people do not and will simply exit your site if it is unclear where to go next.
How Do I Buy? - if you are selling goods directly from your site, make it crystal clear to
visitors how to buy.
Build up a Database of Customers - collect their e-mail addresses (getting permission to
contact them in the future). This can be accomplished by the use of surveys, questionnaires,
a quiz, or asking them to sign up to a newsletter.
I trust that the above tips will help you in designing a web site that will not only look
good but, more importantly, make visitors want to look at the remainder of your site.
Tony Murtagh spent the first part of his career involved in sales, sales management,
marketing and PR. He was a UK National Sales Manger (Major Accounts) for a mobile
communications company and had his own publishing company producing a monthly Business to
Business magazine. He has spent the last ten years in management in the hospitality
industry, with special emphasis on marketing and PR.